Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving breaks silence on vaccine stand off


The scenario that has played out between the Nets was heavily publicized. For the first time, he’s speaking out.

Kyrie Irving is back!

Having not participated in practice since the preseason, Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving returned to his team for the first time. Indeed, Irving also broke his silence on the events that transpired after he refused to receive a covid-19 vaccine – New York City’s vaccine mandate prohibited Irving from participating.

Admitting that he did empathize with the team’s decision, Irving disclosed he had no issue with what the team decided to do in light of the city’s mandate. “I understood their decision and respected it,” Irving said on Wednesday at the Nets practice facility in Brooklyn, in what were his first public comments since Oct. 13. “I really had to sit back and think and try not to become too emotionally attached to what they were deciding to do. I had to really evaluate things and see it from their perspective, meaning the organization, my teammates. …I really empathized and I understood their choice to say if you are not going to be fully vaccinated, then you can’t be a full [participant].”

The Nets will be waiting for Kyrie Irving

According to Nets’ coach Steve Nash, Irving will have to put in the work for a week or two before he can return to the court for a game. Speaking on the road ahead, Irving didn’t shy away from the challenge. “I’ve missed so much time,” Irving said of being away. “It’s my first day back around the block with the guys and it felt like it’s been a long time. It’s only been what, three months or so. But it has felt like the days have been slowly crossed off the calendar while I am sitting at home. When I thought about [returning to practice] last night, I could barely sleep.”

Having missed almost three months, Irving has not trained with his teammates – with any consistency – since training camp. “I knew the consequences,” Irving said when speaking on his unvaccinated status and subsequent absence “I wasn’t prepared for them by no stretch of the imagination. Coming into the season, I had my thought process on being a full-time teammate and just going out and have fun and provide a great brand of basketball. But unfortunately it didn’t happen like that. Things happen for a reason. We are here and I am just grateful for this.

Kyrie Irving opens up about his experience

While Irving’s partial return is good news for the Nets, the reality is the pandemic has taken a heavy toll on their roster such that their hand was forced. In addition, Brooklyn has also seen three games postponed just last week. The result? Kyrie Irving has been brought back to play road games. Interestingly, it was only Tuesday when Irving was finally cleared from protocols along with Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge, which meant they could all practice on Wednesday. Speaking on the turn of events, Irving was sincere. “Incredibly grateful just to be back in the building,” Irving said. “Welcomed back with open arms [from] my teammates, the whole organization. Not gonna lie, it has been relatively tough to watch from the sideline with everything going on in the world. I know everybody is feeling it [COVID]. Just praying for everybody to be healthy during these times. If I get the opportunity to get on the court and play with my teammates, even if it is just on the road for away games, I am grateful for the opportunity.

Irving also admitted that it was difficult to tune out the intense chatter surrounding himself and the Nets. “A lot of uncertainty,” Irving said of waiting for when he could return. “A lot of what-if’s. A lot of scenarios. It is hard not to pay attention to what is being said about the circumstances that we are under and everybody’s opinion on that. I tried to stay grounded and connected with the team, engaged and waiting for the time or the chance when things kind of settled down. I don’t even know if settled down is the right phrase to be using with everybody testing positive and just what’s going on [around the NBA].”

Steve Nash and the Nets weigh in

Having seen his star point guard return to the fray, Nets head coach Steve Nash was understandably happy, however, also impressed. Nash disclosed that Irving was part of a ‘stay-ready’ group that was required to maintain condition and even played while practice was held. “He looks great considering he just came out of protocols and hasn’t played basketball,” Nash said. “How does he recover from today? How many high-intensity [practices] does he need to feel comfortable, confident.” Nash went on to add that where Irving’s physical condition is concerned, it’s going to be a day by day situation. “It’s still a shifting landscape,” he said. “I couldn’t give you an answer but as far as seeing him in the flesh today he looked as well as you could expect considering everything that’s happened in the last few weeks.”

Irving himself was quick to point out that it was simply a matter of riding a bike once again. One of his teammates seemed to have a similar view as well. “I’ve never seen Kyrie not be Kyrie,” said forward DeAndre’ Bembry, adding “So for the most part he looks good. Getting up and down the floor, he didn’t look tired. He looked good today. Same Kyrie, get to the rack, shoot the midrange, shooting some 3s.”

When will Kyrie Irving play?

While things are moving forward, the reality is it may yet be some time before Irving can play his first game for the season. The Nets are about to embark on a stretch of three home games against Philadelphia – Irving can only play on the road – which means the earliest opportunity for their point guard to play, will be at Indiana on January 5th. “I’m at peace with the ramp-up, but I can’t sit here and sugarcoat it. …I am just looking forward to that first game whether it be kind of [Jan. 5] or somewhere after that, however I can get back in shape at an optimum level and be productive, that is what I am aiming on.”

Do the Nets have a championship in them?

Speaking on the future prospects of his team, Irving was open about what he hoped for. Referring to his teammates Kevin Durant, 33, and James Harden, 32, he admitted that though the capacity was clearly there, time was of the essence. “We have a lot more left in the tank,” he said. “But obviously our age between us three, us being at a certain level of mastery in this game, it is only going to last for a certain amount of time. We wanted to strike while the iron is hot.”


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